Archive for March, 2014

Unlearned Lessons of the McMartin Preschool case

mcmartinschoolMarch 31, 2014
It was the longest criminal trial in American history and it ended without a single conviction. Five people were charged with child sexual abuse based on extremely flimsy evidence. Some parents came to believe outlandish stories about ritual abuse and tunnels underneath the preschool. It is no wonder that the McMartin case, once labeled the largest “mass molestation” case in history, has come to be called a witch-hunt. In a commentary to a Retro Report earlier this month, Clyde Haberman, former Times reporter, repeated the view that the  case was a witch-hunt that spawned a wave of other cases of “dubious provenance.” But does that description do justice to the facts?

A careful examination of court records reveals that the witch-hunt narrative about the McMartin case is a powerful but not entirely accurate story. For starters, critics have obscured the facts surrounding the origins of the case. Richard Beck, quoted as an expert in the Retro Report story, recently asserted that the McMartin case began when Judy Johnson “went to the police” to allege that her child had been molested. Debbie Nathan, the other writer quoted by Retro Report, went even further, asserting that “everyone overlooked the fact that Judy Johnson was psychotic.”

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Retro Report Repeats Media Myth on the McMartin Preschool case

March 27, 2014
Retro Report recently did a story about the McMartin Preschool case in California, the subject of a detailed and complicated chapter in my forthcoming book. Sadly, the organization devoted to “re-examining” media stories told the same extreme, black-and-white version of the case that has persisted for almost 25 years. I have a post in today’s  Oxford University Press blog taking Retro Report to task for repeating the media myth that the case was “all a witch-hunt.”  Important evidence in the case proves that Retro Report got it wrong. [Update: that post was moved to this site; see above.]

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Story in the Providence Journal

Cheit_BB_01_40X0V1T4HMarch 23, 2014
There was a front-page story in the Providence Journal today about The Witch-Hunt Narrative. Amazon says that the book will start shipping this Thursday. If you are in the Providence area, there will be a book launch event at Brown on Tuesday April 1 at 4:00.

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The Witch-Hunt Narrative

March 21, 2014
The Witch-Hunt Narrative is scheduled to be released soon! Information about the book can be found on the “About the Book” tab, while direct links for purchasing can be found on the “Purchase the Book” tab. Please check back  for updates about the book and content related to the book.

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